Marijuana merchants continue to face difficulty in depositing their cash with banks fearful of possible repercussions enforced by the federal government. The numbers are increasing however with a 45% increase in banks working with marijuana businesses in the last year. Still merchants face the difficulty of an all-cash business by stashing cash in storage units, back offices, and armored vans. Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado three years ago, almost 600 dispensary robberies have been reported in Denver.
Those in favor of marijuana legalization believe the November 8th election could have a major impact on the federal laws thus giving fearful banks a reason to get involved. Nine states including Florida and California are scheduled to vote, an outcome that could result in 34 states sanctioning marijuana for medical and/or recreational use, an estimated $23B in annual sales. An industry that large must be able to engage in business with banks as that is a lot of cash floating around, prompting a federal decision to be made.
One conflict of interest banks face is the requirement from the Treasury Dept. to report suspected drug crimes, while in 2014 the Justice Department said it would not prosecute banks for serving state-sanctioned pot businesses. According to the Treasury Department, 301 banks were serving marijuana businesses.
That National Cannabis Association has been lobbying for a law that would ensure banks face no consequences for handling marijuana cash.
Some states have tried their own remedies to the problem, for example: Colorado created a credit union system for state-sanctioned marijuana businesses that fell apart when the Kansas City Federal Reserve denied a Colorado pot credit union access to the national payments system. According to Tom Dresslar spokesman for California’s Department of Business Oversight, California has no plans to develop such
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